Midnight Club: Street Racing Review
As midnight approaches, the Midnight Club - an illegal street racing group- peaks out and gears up their cars for some dangerously fast action. Using tricked out vehicles that soar at a blistering 150 MPH, these street racers are in it for the cash and the pure adrenaline rush. This form of racing is mostly found in a few cities, that would be good ol' New York City, San Francisco, Tokyo and London. I for one never thought of a videogame based on the illegal sport to be released on any console, until I saw Midtown Madness for the PC and was completely hooked. Created by Angel Studios, who also created Smuggler's Run and Midnight Club, Midtown Madness was a great game with the illegal street racing premise in hand, and while the game was incredibly fun, I kept on thinking how much more fun it would be on a console such as the PS2. And to my surprise I hear around April time that Rockstar and Angel Studios have sealed a deal for two games to be published on to the PS2 whenever the console would launch. Oh man were my prayers for a Midtown Madness sequel deep, I just had to get a game like Midtown on PS2, it was the ideal match. A few days or weeks (I forgot already) later the first showing of Midnight Club: Street Racing was made by Rockstar, and it the beginning details were sketchy and I was quite skeptical of this game being as good as Midtown for PC was. But just after four more months of development the final code of the game was excellent, a vast improvement over what the game was like when we originally saw it many months ago. Well of course with launch juggernauts such as SSX and Madden NFL 2001, I wasn't expecting Midnight Club to make it to the my list of Top 5 PS2 games, but dammit I think it just hit the number three spot and booted Unreal and TimeSplitters to #4 and Smuggler's Run to #5. See why Midnight Club is one of the best launch titles on the PS2.
When I first glanced at the early screenshots of Midnight Club, I thought that the car models looked great, but there was just too much chroming on the cars and it downright made them look like car shaped gold coins. Although after playing the game I then noticed why there was so much glare, and that was because of all the lighting effects the game has, from lampposts on freeways, highways and city streets. The chrome look made everything seem that much more realistic and it really brought out the midnight feel of the game. Since one of Midnight Club's stages is the city that never sleeps New York, you can only imagine the kind of great stuff that Angel did for areas like Times Square, the neon lighting of China Town, and office buildings with lights turned on in about a majority of the office windows. Another lighting effect feature is the fore and back lights on cars, I like the illumination that they give off, a really nice touch I must say. Midnight Club has gotten hundreds of different textures scattered throughout New York City and London (Tokyo was cut out so that the game makes launch day), both of the cities are overflown with great looking buildings, none that are very repetitive and best of all to keep the cities true to their real world counterparts, real life monuments/places such as the Big Ben (London), Rockefeller Center, St. Patricks Cathedral and a weird looking Madison Square Garden with just a basketball arena in it.
The game's environments are among some of the largest I've seen in quite awhile, the only game that I think can compete is Driver and Driver 2. Since the areas are so impressively large, a slight draw-in problem is present, it isn't very noticeable, since it only occurs in the far background, and instead of the background popping in, it gently appears in a ghostly like fashion, nothing really serious. As for car models I must admit these are some of the better looking car models I've seen in a videogame, I think that Tokyo Extreme Racing 2 had some awesome looking car design that is definitely worth noting, although these babies show real-time damage to the body of the car, which is an incredibly feature, but it's a fact that both of these games will be run over by Gran Turismo 3, when it roars on shelves January or February. Each vehicle has a great amount of detail, a good percentage (or almost all) of the bodies themselves are based on real cars like Mitsubishi Eclipse's (the 1998 model), or Renault, Lamborghini's, Crown Victoria cop and taxi cars, and a few more, but as long as they look great that's all that matters. The traffic cars are very nice looking and you'll be able to spot cars like Jeep Grand Cherokees, Dodge RAMs, Ford Winstar and a variety of many others. I'll also have you guys know that Midnight is anti-aliased and flicker free, incase you were wondering. The frame rate travels at a rarely dropping 30 frames per second, and to go along with that, the sense of speed is some of the best I've ever felt in a racing game, it is wonderful. The only real complaint I have about the visuals is that the cars out of proportion, for instance a Jeep Grand Cherokee traffic car can be smaller than a 2-door sporty VW Bug-esque car, which we all know that a Grand Cherokee can easily crush a VW Beetle, this is a bit annoying and hopefully gets taken care of in the next sequel. I think that these are some of the best racing visuals to be found on any console.
I had a big dilemma between choosing over the better game, Smuggler's Run or Midnight Club: Street Racing, after extensively playing Midnight Club: Street Racing I can definitely make the decision that Midnight is the unanimous winner, don't get me wrong Smuggler's Run is an enjoyable game and all, but Midnight's fast paced exhilarated action is where it's at for me and I'm sure for many others as well. Playing Midnight Club is the best feeling in the world, it is almost what SSX is, but instead of snow you've got pavement rolling down for hundreds city blocks through London and New York City. Each locale has its own variety of great secrets to discover, such as high jumps and shortcuts, and believe me once you thought you've seen everything, there is always one more shortcut or jump to discover. Midnight Club actually has a strange plot to it, as a cab driver in New York City, you are approached by Emilio, who is a Midnight Club member, he thinks that you are trying to race him, but indeed you weren't, so he tells you to follow him and see if you can keep up. Eventually you will meet up with the Spaniard and he will grant you his cell number if you ever want to race him in a pink-slip. The game evolves greatly from there on as there will be three opposing cars riding around the streets, if you are able to catch up to any car and the driver notices, he/she will ask you to follow him/her to a meeting point, if you succeed you will have the chance to do a checkpoint mission. This is where you have to make it to the finish by picking up all of the checkpoint lights on your way there, first man to get to the finish with all lights wins, it's very simple. Each car has three of these challenges, and you can race each driver three times, every time you win you get his/her car (it's called Pink-Slip rules), so pretty much each driver has three cars that are all different than one another, the third car of course being the best of the trio and having a certain amount of nitrous oxide boost.
There is a great deal of cars included in Midnight Club: Street Racing, approximately 42 cars available in total, with the ability to add a few more cars if you have a game save from Smuggler's Run on your memory card. All of the cars are based on real life car models such as Chevy's, Ford's, Mitsubishi's and plenty of others. The car list is so extensive that it even features a taxi cab, a London double decker bus, police cars, meter maid vehicles (mini sized police cars with three wheels), and even more. Although you only have a choice of two stages to choose from (Tokyo had to be dropped, so that the game would make the launch date), they are incredibly huge with an immense amount of exploration. Arcade mode lets you pick from a hefty amount of great modes, such as Joyride, Head to Head, Waypoint and best of all Capture the Flag, all of these modes played in two-player are even a bigger blast. I had the time of my life playing Capture the Flag with a bud of mine, the premise is exactly the same as it is found in first person shooters, you pick up a flag and bring it back to the green point with out getting smashed by another car, this is arguably the best mode in the whole game. Angel Studios did a fantastic job of creating one of the best PS2 games out there, this games only license may be Coca Cola and MTV for New York City, but the killer action is what I desire and crave, two hearty thumbs up from me.
Great game, with techno beats equals one hell of a soundtrack baby. Rockstar promised a great soundtrack and they sure did deliver with some very nice tracks. Since the action is pretty much extreme and it would only be right to implement a techno soundtrack. Midnight Club has some voice acting in it from time to time, but nothing very major though, it happens usually after winning a race or during a race. The car engines sound very good almost as if the real heat was chasing you, the car engines are also very nice and add that extra something that really makes you feel like you are racing in a tricked out vehicle with an engine twice the power of the original, good stuff here folks.
The one and only thing missing in the controls is that there is a lack of steering wheel support. I plugged in my V3 wheel, which is definitely the best wheel out there for the PSOne, and I got nothing, then I plugged in the Logic 3 wheel, had to fiddle around with the switches for awhile and then my wheel was set to work with the game, although its steering is a bit stiff so it took time getting used to it. As for things like overall maneuverability, Midnight Club: Street Racing has very precise analog movement that supports both analog sticks for turning and accelerating/braking. All of the buttons are laid out properly but you can tinker with them if you wish to.
I admit that my Top 5 PS2 games article was based a lot around hype, the fact is that I never did get a chance to fully test the games out. I believe that Midnight Club: Street Racing is the third best game to get for your PS2 collection. Midnight Club's great visuals, fantastic and addictive gameplay, and its great soundtrack create one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences I have ever had. The game may very well get nominated for numerous awards come this Christmas when the Extreme Awards 2000 arrive. If you are an avid racer who will play anything from Ridge Racer, to Need for Speed to Gran Turismo, then you must not delay and pick up Midnight Club, if you are a racing fan period then the game is a solid choice once again, and if you loved Driver or Midtown Madness to death, then, you guessed Midnight is your game, go out and buy it you won't regret the decision.
11/15/2000 Arnold Katayev